How often can I have a “cheat” meal? I’ve seen diets where they allow you one once a week, as a reward for dieting the rest of the week. Do you think this is a good idea? If so, can I do more than one a week if I spend extra time doing cardio?
“Cheat” meals is a popular concept in the diet world. The idea is to provide a mental break from constant dieting by allowing yourself to indulge in decadent foods one day a week.
There is some validity to the concept of cheat meals. Yes, they do provide that mental break that dieters often need, cutting down on the temptation to go entirely off the rails. But while the psychological benefit of taking one cheat day each week is obvious, more recent studies indicate that increasing your caloric intake one day a week might actually have a physical benefit too.
When we dramatically increase our calories our bodies produce more of a hormone called leptin, which in turn signals the body to increase metabolism to handle the extra food. The effects of the leptin increase last beyond your last cheat meal of the day, thereby causing the body to continue burning at a faster rate.
I recommend making your cheat day the one in which you train hardest, as the body will do a better job of using calories when it’s depleted by hard exercise. In fact, I even recommend a post-workout meal (liquid or otherwise) that includes up to 30 grams of simple carbohydrates to stimulate growth hormone production.